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Who is Liable for Nursing Home Abuse in South Carolina?

Nursing home abuse happens in many ways, and different forms of abuse can result in lawsuits filed against different parties. Companies (like nursing homes) can usually be held liable for mistakes and negligence committed by their employees. The rules, however, might be different when it comes to acts of intentional violence or abuse. So how do these rules affect liability for nursing home abuse cases?

Generally speaking, the individual nurse or staff member who committed acts of abuse will always be individually liable for the abuse they caused. However, nursing homes can also be liable for an employee’s on-the-job negligence. They can also be held liable for other mistakes within their own control, such as negligent hiring of a staff member they should have known might be abusive.

Talk to a lawyer for help getting compensation for nursing home abuse. The South Carolina nursing home abuse lawyers at Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers offer free case reviews. Call us today at (803) 451-4000.

Holding Nursing Home Staff Responsible for Abuse in South Carolina

Individual nurses, orderlies, or other staff members can be held individually responsible for any abuse they commit against nursing home residents. As with assault and battery involving any other defendant, you can hold them liable for their own actions. However, this is not necessarily the route to compensation that your Columbia nursing home abuse lawyer will take, as going after the nursing home for the abuse might lead to higher compensation.

Generally speaking, nursing home workers are normal people and might not have the ability to pay for the damages they cause. While they might be responsible for the injuries, it is important to hold nursing homes liable when they have also committed errors and mistakes that left your vulnerable parents, grandparents, or other family members open to abuse. As such, a lawsuit against the individual who abused the nursing home resident is often only a part of the case you will file.

Suing Nursing Homes for Abuse in South Carolina

In many cases, you can file a lawsuit against the nursing home alongside the individual nursing home worker who abused your loved one. When you do this, you may open additional sources of compensation, such as malpractice insurance or other liability insurance that the nursing home carries at an institutional level. This can often get damages paid more fully than when you file your case against the worker alone.

However, the legal mechanisms by which you can hold the nursing home responsible vary depending on how the abuse occurred and what, precisely, the nursing home did wrong.

Vicarious Liability under “Respondeat Superior” Rules

In personal injury law, a doctrine called “respondeat superior” is often used to hold employers responsible for their employees’ negligence. This same mechanism allows injury victims to sue trucking companies for drivers who cause accidents, grocery stores for staff who fail to clean puddles, and even nursing homes for some forms of abuse and neglect committed by nurses and orderlies.

To hold a nursing home liable for the actions of a staff member, you must prove a few elements:

  • The staff member was an employee of the nursing home.
  • The negligence that caused abuse or injury occurred while the employee was on duty.
  • The negligence occurred within the scope of the employee’s duties.


In practice, this means that nursing homes can be held liable for mistakes and errors that occur during their normal operations. Since a nursing home is a company, it can only act through its employees, and so the nursing home can be held liable when its functions – carried out through its employees – lead to injury. This often leads to liability for abuse such as the following:

  • Failing to keep patients or their rooms/premises clean, leading to patient infections.
  • Failing to keep premises safe for patients.
  • Medication mix-ups and mistakes in dosage.
  • Leaving patients too long without care because of malfunctioning or mishandled call buttons or systems.


Note that all these situations must involve negligence – that is, some mistake or error. Typically, employers cannot be held liable for intentional acts of abuse committed by employees since abuse would be outside the scope of their employment. Talk to a South Carolina personal injury lawyer for help pursuing a case involving intentional abuse or violence.

Liability for Negligent Hiring and Retention

When a nursing home worker commits some act of abuse or neglect, the nursing home can be held liable for that abuse in certain situations discussed above. Regardless of whether the abuse involved negligence or intentional acts of violence, the nursing home might also be responsible for mistakes made at the hiring stage or mistakes in keeping a dangerous employee on staff.

Columbia personal injury lawyers refer to these as “negligent hiring” or “negligent retention cases.” In negligent hiring cases involving nursing home abuse, a nursing home can be held liable if they failed to perform proper background checks or missed red flags that should have told them an employee might be a risk to their patients. Similarly, negligent retention cases involving nursing home abuse deal with cases where an employee had a history of abuse at the same facility and the nursing home failed to fire or reassign them.

Exposing patients to known abusers is incredibly negligent, and nursing homes can be held liable for these kinds of problems. However, you might need the help of an experienced South Carolina nursing home abuse lawyer for help researching the nursing home’s hiring practices and determining whether past reports or red flags existed.

Call Our South Carolina Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Today

If you or a loved one was abused at a nursing home, call our Sumter, SC personal injury abuse attorneys for help. At Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers, we offer free case evaluations. Call (803) 451-4000 today to speak with our attorneys.